The recently concluded NPFL season had a good number of highs, but it had its lows too and this piece examines them.
Having outlined the positives of the 2015/2016 season of the Nigeria Professional Football League, ‘Biola Kazeem takes time to examine the negatives.
Meant to be a football club, Giwa FC morphed into a cancerous nuisance and nearly consumed the league as its owner, Chris Giwa childishly turned it into a tool – a weak one it turned out – to continue his misplaced battle with the Nigerian football establishment for perceived injustices arising from his failed bid for the leadership of the NFF.
Thrown out of the league for missing three consecutive away games, Chris Giwa resorted to ambushing the league’s progress with court rulings from the Jos High Court and it took deft legal manoeuvring from the LMC to ensure that the league finished uninterrupted.
The Ifeanyi Ubah incident
The LMC missed a teachable moment when Chief Ifeanyi Ubah was banned for only 10 games after he assaulted Ebere Obi of Enugu Rangers after a league game. Given the gravity and context of the offence, the punishment should have been more severe.
While the LMC was quick to defend the mild punishment by saying that is what its rule books suggest, there are examples that show that sometimes, you need to go over and above stipulated punishment to get the message across.
When Luiz Suarez – then of Liverpool – bit Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanonic, he was banned for 11 games even though his offence, violent conduct, is usually punished with a three to five-game ban. The FA came out strongly and having learnt that biting was not allowed in England, Suarez took his biting skills to the World Cup where FIFA also slammed him with a four-month ban to drive home the message that indeed, biting was not allowed anywhere in football. Needless to say he hasn’t bitten anyone, anywhere ever since.
While the LMC has stipulated punishments, where necessary, it must go over and above that to punish erring persons or teams so that a notice of deterrence is served unequivocally to others.
Despite the term ‘football is big business’ being the first off the lips of Nigerian football administrators, it is doubtful if most have the nous it takes to spot even the most obvious business opportunities in football. Time and again, usually out of convenient populism, gates are thrown open for fans at moments when gate fees should actually be reviewed upward to increase revenue and serve as first level of security management.
The saddest example was in Enugu on final day of the season. Here was a team that had not won the league in 32 years. Fans, young and old had converged on the city ready to spend and party in celebration of the much awaited title. Airlines, hotels, transporters, restaurants and other service providers made good money.
However, Rangers, the reason why everybody else made money didn’t make a dime from gates as the state governor declared that the gates be thrown open. Rangers could have made as much as N25m from that game alone but it was frittered away in a populist gesture which is of minimal benefit to the political fortunes of the governor, but causes sizeable damage to the football as a business proposition.
The danger of the incessant needless resort to allowing fans watch games for free is that they are being taught that football is not worth paying for. With an education like that, how then do they get used to paying to watch games? How do teams sell merchandise? How do teams gather data, an increasingly vital component of sponsorship? Where is the sense in chasing elusive sponsors when team fritter away the opportunities under their control to generate money?
If teams are to become self-sufficient, then the offer of free football must be permanently withdrawn. Foot traffic might fall initially but that is a small price to pay to re-educate fans that football, like other forms of live entertainment, cannot be free.
The Trophy Presentation Ceremony
For a season that was the best in living memory, the medal and trophy presentation ceremony was a disaster. From a TV perspective, that bit is usually the snapshot of the whole season.
With the mood at the stadium already heavily dampened by the unfortunate injury to Ifeanyi Egwim, the medal and trophy presentation did nothing to uplift the mood and was an unfair representation of how organised the league has been.
Betraying any sort of previous planning and organisation, the medals presentation quickly descended into an amoebic farce. It was not clearly discernible who was awarding what to who. All sort of people wearing Rangers clothing were given medals, belittling the valiant efforts of players who gave several kilograms of sweat and blood for it or in the heart-breaking case of Ifeanyi Egwim, who broke a leg for it.
While great strides have been made in this area, there is still a lot to do to protect the integrity and credibility of the league. Insinuations of widespread inducement abound and the performance of some referees in some games continue to fuel them. Unfortunately for the LMC, the NFF, through its referees appointing committee, controls this vital element of the league.
In the short term, the LMC must continue to work with the Nigerian Referees Association to make sure its members are above board. The long term strategy, if this fails, must be to have a measure of control over the selection and appointment of referees.
To be continued…
Ⓒ Copyright NET News Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Please use sharing tools. Do not cut, copy or lift any content from this website without our consent.